Night: Night Life, Night Language, Sleep, and Dreams

Overview

A. Alvarez examines night in all its aspects. How do we light it? How do we inhabit it and make it safe? In what "languages" do we dream? The search moves from the neon-lit brilliance of Las Vegas to the shadowy underworld patrolled by the police. We visit a sleep laboratory, where scientists try to understand what happens to our bodies and in our brains when sleep claims us. Alvarez shows how "night horrors" inspired and terrified Coleridge, and how dreams liberated the minds of Stevenson and the Surrealists. He...
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Overview

A. Alvarez examines night in all its aspects. How do we light it? How do we inhabit it and make it safe? In what "languages" do we dream? The search moves from the neon-lit brilliance of Las Vegas to the shadowy underworld patrolled by the police. We visit a sleep laboratory, where scientists try to understand what happens to our bodies and in our brains when sleep claims us. Alvarez shows how "night horrors" inspired and terrified Coleridge, and how dreams liberated the minds of Stevenson and the Surrealists. He talks about his own childhood fears and explores the secret world of the unconscious. Through a highly original and accessible account of the thoughts of Freud, Jung, and their modern-day counterparts, as well as the latest scientific theories, Alvarez reveals how deeply dreams and the unconscious color and fashion our waking lives.

A brilliant exploration of night and the deep resonances it has for the human race. Alvarez--author of The Savage God--gives readers a new understanding of the fragile borderline between day and night, an understanding of the language of dreams, and an explanation of how dreams affect our waking selves.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Alvarez begins this delightful, serendipitous meditation on night, darkness, sleep, dreams and night life by discussing his own childhood terror of the dark, in a home seething with nighttime quarrels, and his middle-age addiction to sleep. He then visits an English sleep research lab, where he has his sleep monitored; travels to New York City to ride in a police squad car with cops on night patrol; and captures the nocturnal rhythms of London and of a Tuscan farmhouse in the Italian Appennines. In graceful, insightful prose, Alvarez The Savage God: A Study of Suicide analyzes imagery of light and dark from Shakespeare to John Cheever; scrutinizes the dream theories of Freud and Jung; examines dreams as a source of inspiration for Coleridge, Ionesco, Don DeLillo, French surrealists and scientists and inventors; and mulls the late-Victorian passion for ghost stories. His observation, ``Night contains whatever you care to put into it,'' serves as an apt keynote for this kaleidoscopic excursion. Jan.
Library Journal
Scared of the dark? The author of the best-selling The Savage God LJ 4/1/72 here examines our response to night, eventually linking it to creativity.
Donna Seaman
Alvarez has always been acutely aware of the peculiar qualities of night. As a child, he was terrified of the dark and in middle age he developed, paradoxically, an almost gluttonous appetite for sleep and a passion for poker which, of course, kept him up to all hours. Author of "The Savage God: A Study of Suicide" (1990) and an essayist with a solid literary foundation and an enviably clear and polished prose style, Alvarez considers the night from several intriguing perspectives. First, he links the very survival of human beings as a species and the rise of civilization to the control of fire, the only form of illumination available for hundreds of thousands of years. He also vividly describes just how different night was up until a century ago and the advent of electricity. Thoughts about the night lead, naturally, to thoughts about sleep, and Alvarez recounts the latest discoveries made by sleep researchers. This, in turn, inspires an adept and original discussion of dreams and their relationship to art. Alvarez's superb variations on the theme of night enhance our appreciation of the miraculous intricacy and energy of our mind, an energy that produces everything from nightmares to poetry to lightbulbs.
George Needham
Michael Vincent Miller, a psychologist and family counselor, defines intimate terrorism as a "two person civil war" that develops when a previously loving relationship deteriorates into a battle for power and position. The partners manipulate their complementary anxieties to threaten, rouse each other's fears and anxieties, and, in the worst case, become violent. Miller claims that much of the pervasive decay is caused by our culture, including the death of the myth of romantic love and the changing sex roles in our society. He uses case studies taken from his private practice and from contemporary literature, pop culture, and the headlines to explore his thesis. There are extended discussions of the O. J. Simpson case, the custody battle between Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, and "The Great Gatsby". This is an insightful, thought-provoking, yet overwhelmingly depressing book, with only one of the case-study couples apparently reconciled, and that very tentatively. The book is leavened only by the epilogue, in which Miller suggests developing an ironic point of view on romantic and conjugal love; unfortunately, David Letterman seems a poor substitute for Cupid.
John Banville - Boston Sunday Globe
“A perceptive, instructive, at times beautiful and always entertaining study of our nocturnal lives.”
Penelope Mesic - Chicago Tribune
“A book lyrical and scientific, personal and scrupulously researched. . . . [Alvarez's] precision of expression is a delight.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393037241
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/28/1995
  • Pages: 290
  • Product dimensions: 5.78 (w) x 8.49 (h) x 1.23 (d)

Meet the Author

A. Alvarez is a highly acclaimed poet, novelist, literary critic, and author. He lives in London.

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